November 23, 2005
Candle fires, deaths increase during holiday season
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Glowing candles add a touch of glamour to holiday celebrations—and an element of danger, as well.
“Christmas is the No. 1 day for candle fires, and Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day are tied for No. 2,” says Lauren Fairburn, coordinator of Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide safety and injury prevention program.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 14 percent of home candle fires occur in December, almost twice the monthly average of 8 percent.
“What typically happens is candles that are being used for decoration are left unattended and a nearby combustible catches fire,” Fairburn said.
The NFPA says that candle fires have tripled since 1990, finally stabilizing from 2001 to 2002. Candles started 18,000 home fires in 2001 and 2002. These fires caused an estimated 130 fire deaths, 1,350 civilian fire injuries and $333 million in direct property damage during 2002.
Falling asleep when a candle was lit was a factor in 12 percent of the home candle fires and 25 percent of the fatalities.
“What’s truly alarming about these statistics is the NFPA says that children under age 5 face the highest risk of death from home candle fires,” Fairburn said. “And almost half of the people killed by home candle fires from 1980 to 2002 were under age 20.”
Fairburn recommends that families practice the following NFPA safety tips to avoid common dangers related to candle use:
- Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.
- Keep candles away from items that can catch fire, like clothing, books and curtains.
- Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over easily, are made from a material that cannot burn, and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
- Keep candles and all open flames away from flammable liquids.
- Keep candle wicks trimmed to one-quarter inch and extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get to within two inches of the holder. Votives and containers should be extinguished before the last half-inch of wax starts to melt.
- During power outages, avoid carrying a lit candle. Use flashlights.